Henry Smith MP has written to schools in Crawley encouraging pupils and science clubs to take part in a programme carrying out science experiments about the conditions on Mars.
Global space company Thales Alenia Space’s MARSBalloon project is designed to give students practical experience of designing and testing things to go into space that could one day be destined for Mars.
“I’m pleased to encourage our schools to take part in Crawley-based Thales UK’s MARSBalloon project.
“This initiative encourages pupils to gain practical experience of designing and testing experiments into space, and offers a unique opportunity to find out about the conditions on Mars.”
The Thales Alenia Space MARSBalloon team will launch a high-altitude balloon to an altitude of 30km, more than twice the height of commercial airliners, where they will be above 99 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere.
Students will be able to work together to create Mars experiments that fit inside a small egg-shaped capsule, which can be included in the launch. Along the way they will experience conditions very similar to the surface of Mars including temperatures of -50°C, pressures 1/100th that of sea level and an increased radiation dose.
This allows students to test the response of electronics, materials, plants and even food to the conditions outside of a future Mars base, helping future explorers to prepare for this environment.
After the balloon’s flight, the MARSBalloon team will track the landing and recover the experiments, allowing them to be returned to the students for analysis. Pictures and video of the flight are also made available so pupils can watch and see what happens to their experiments during the flight.
It is open to secondary and primary pupils all across the UK and there is no cost to take part in the project other than that of experiment materials and postage.
This year the MARSBalloon project will have a competitive element, with prizes being awarded for Best Innovation, Best Decoration, Engineers Choice and VIP Judge’s Choice.
The deadline for registration is 1st April 2022 with the launch of the balloon in early June.